Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis says OK to Phase 2, but not for South Florida

Protest and Florida hosting Republican National Convention also topics at news conference

Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at Universal Studios CityWalk in Orlando. (WPLG)

ORLANDO, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis held a news conference Wednesday afternoon at Universal Studios Citywalk, where he announced that 64 counties in the state can head into Phase 2 of a three-part reopening plan amid coronavirus. He also addressed the recent protests in multiple Florida cities and answered questions about the possibility of the Sunshine State hosting the Republican National Convention over the summer.

Reopening Phase 2

DeSantis said he is expecting to sign the order Wednesday that allows the Phase 2 reopening to take effect Friday in all but three counties in Florida. The Phase 2 reopening does not include Broward, Miami-Dade or Palm Beach counties, the places most densely hit by the coronavirus.

Bars and pubs will be able to open at 50% capacity indoors and at full capacity outside with proper social distancing. Restaurants can seat people at bars with the proper social distancing in place.

The reopening also includes businesses such as movie theaters, bowling alleys and concert halls and theaters, also at 50% capacity, with social-distancing restrictions in place. Casinos can also reopen at 50% capacity

Retail can now operate at full capacity.

Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties may seek approval to enter Phase 2 with a written request from the county mayor or county administrator if there is no mayor.

The Mayor of Palm Beach County used that alternative when his county was not included in Phase 1. See the executive order below.

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Addressing the Protests

“Statewide there have been respectful gatherings of large crowds with isolated incidents of individuals who have taken the opportunity to exploit these situations, usually at night, to engage in unlawful activities.” DeSantis said.

DeSantis cited some examples: A man was arrested for trying to stab officers with an exposed syringe and another person was arrested for trying to sell Molotov cocktails (bottle bombs) from his car. Another was found with a backpack full of mortar bombs, said DeSantis.

He thanked peaceful protesters for helping to stop the attempts of those who are “seeking to engage in violent activity. We really appreciate their commitment to non violence.”

Hosting the Republican National Convention

DeSantis said that Florida could “pull off” hosting the Republican National Convention and would gladly welcome the $100 million economy impact after President Donald Trump on Tuesday said that he is seeking a new state to host the RNC after North Carolina would not guarantee the event could be held without restrictions because of ongoing concerns over the coronavirus.

"North Carolina approached it as a default no and then maybe we’ll see. My approach would be a default yes. Then as we get closer, you can make determinations about how you would do it,” DeSantis said Wednesday.

The Republican governor acknowledged that he would take into account the prevalence of the coronavirus and statistics in Florida nearer to the convention, but that with mitigation measures such as masks and testing in place, especially looking months in advance, the state should welcome the RNC.

“That’s not from a partisan perspective. If Biden said they wanted to do Dem here, I would say OK,” DeSantis said.

He mentioned some of the cities that could be in the running: “Orlando because of the hotel capacity would be an obvious place.” He said Jacksonville is interested and so is Miami-Dade County, “a place that is used to hosting large events.” Once consideration for Miami could be the Miami Beach Convention Center, a site used to hosting gatherings such as Art Basel, would be able to accommodate convention crowds.

“I don’t like how some states have said ‘We will not have anything in an arena until 2021.’ How can you know that that’s the case?” the governor questioned.

DeSantis said that the original host state, North Carolina, may have missed its chance.

“We should assume that we will be doing this and welcome it," he said.

About the Author:

Michelle F. Solomon is the podcast producer/reporter/host of Local 10's original, true-crime podcast The Florida Files and a digital journalist for Local 10.com.